by Farah Master
HONG KONG (Reuters) – The Macao government opened bids on Friday from seven companies, including a wildcard company of Malaysia’s Genting, for licenses to operate casinos at the world’s largest gambling hub, beginning a closely watched battle for six available slots. Senior Macao officials including the city’s Minister of Economy and Finance Lee Wai Nong and Minister of Administration and Justice Andre Cheung attended the opening with top executives from Macau casinos. Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: Macau unit Sands China (OTC :)), where is macau (OTC:) and MGM China (OTC:). All six existing Macau players, which also include Galaxy Entertainment, Melco Resorts and SJM Holding, submitted bids before Wednesday’s deadline with GMM Limited, the holding company of Genting Group Chairman Sri Lim Kok Thay, which does not operate casinos in Macau. GMM’s implementation was seen as a surprise to many executives and analysts, with some saying it represented additional uncertainty for local operators. Ben Lee, founder of gaming consultancy IGamiX in Macau, said Genting would have been encouraged to apply and would be a good fit given that it is the only operator for applicants with a strong background in theme parks. “There’s a chance they could take down one of the incumbents. They (Genteng) think so too, otherwise they wouldn’t have offered a 10 million Hong Kong dollar ($1.27 million) buyout deal.” Genting operates casinos in Singapore, Malaysia, the United States and Britain and has large-scale non-gaming operations – a major priority for the Macau government. It has also made a series of investments in China, including a major ski resort that will host the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
The sector has been reeling since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with revenue dropping 70% in 2021 to $10.8 billion from $36 billion in 2019. New casino licenses in Macau are expected to begin in 2023 and are essential for the six operators. Run their multi-billion dollar property. They have collectively invested around $40 billion in Macau since the liberalization of casinos more than 20 years ago. All companies submitted their bids in person via two large batches of paper files, which were trucked to the government on Wednesday, TDM public broadcaster showed. They had to pay 10 million Hong Kong dollars to advance. The bids come as Macau casinos have come under fire for ongoing COVID restrictions and travel restrictions. The authorities have also tightened their control over gambling operations in the former Portuguese colony through new legislation.
Justice Minister Cheung said before the bid opening that the number of licenses awarded would not change from 6. He said the government would review bids and negotiate with bidders before announcing the winners before the end of the year.
Analysts expect results to come in by the end of November or early December.
For the bids, companies must show “special consideration … to develop foreign tourism markets, experience in operating casino games, investment in gaming and non-gaming projects for Macau, casino management plans, plans to monitor and prevent illegal activities and social responsibilities,” according to a statement. on the government website.
Genting Malaysia has confirmed that its indirect subsidiary GMM has submitted an offer to the Macau government in a statement to the Malaysian Stock Exchange on September 15.
This move is an opportunity to “expand its business in the leisure and hospitality sector, diversify its geographical footprint and participate in the prospects for recovery” in Macau.
Genting applied for a Macau license more than two decades ago but was unsuccessful. Since 2020, it has started construction of a hotel in the south of the Macau main peninsula. It is scheduled to open later this year.
Genting will still be able to operate its hotel resort even if it does not win a new casino license, according to the laws of Macau.
(dollar = 7.8478 Hong Kong dollar)